The designers at BASF’s Coatings division have published their automotive color trends for 2014/2015. With their collection entitled “Under the Radar”, new color ranges are appearing on the trend radar. The development of special effects is setting new accents and opening up unusual color ranges. BASF’s designers are predicting that this will make automotive colors more complex and more individual in the future. This ability to stand out from the crowd caters to the consumers’ desires, since the topic of individualization is playing an increasingly important role, especially when buying a car.

Dynamics and complexity

The designers observe a social change moving from luxury to a heightened awareness of quality and values. For automotive colors, this means that what counts is not attention-grabbing, but rather the “wow”-effect at second glance. Innovative special effects create these accents. For instance, the new collection contains the newly developed XSpark ® special-effect coating. XSpark contains very fine glass particles that reflect the light, thus creating a distinctive sparkle that is particularly effective only in light. “XSpark opens up brand new opportunities for translating new values and a new quality awareness into automotive color,” said BASF color designer Florina Trost.

Thanks to a targeted special effect, classic colors like blue or silver develop a completely individual color behavior. Thereby, they visually reinforce the car bodies’ geometry and vitalize their broad surfaces with brilliant sparkle (XSpark).

Mark Gutjahr, head of Design BASF Europe, explained the significance of special-effect coatings: “For years, the differences have basically only been between solid, pearl-effect and metallic. Now, we are starting to see some movement in this area. The targeted interaction between color and special effects is making automotive colors more complex and multifaceted. This development will also continue to accompany us for a few years. We haven’t yet exhausted the potential in the special-effect palette.”

Strong colors demonstrate individuality 

The extraordinary color positions in the new collection are also determining the trend toward more individuality. “Bold colors like red will shape our image of individual mobility,” Gutjahr said. The growing share of powerful reds can already be seen on the roads. According to the designers, as red develops over the coming years, it will also continue to move in the range of strong, dark purples. The potential of green will continue to be visible in a wide range of nuances, from intensive turquoise to sparkling moss green.

The trend toward individuality has therefore developed further. It’s not only about delimiting and differentiating yourself. Instead, it is becoming increasingly important to communicate a certain attitude, and this opens up new color spaces and lends more weight to the topic of color,” said Astrid Van der Auwera from BASF’s global design team, summarizing the trend.

Automotive color development


Impact factors Society and technology

The automotive market responds to trends and impacts differently than the fast-paced fashion industry. Of course, color trends from this sector also play a role for the automotive industry, but a “seasonal yellow” is not automatically applied to car bodies. Complex social developments, such as the sharing economy, ecology or digital networking are central factors for the color trends.

Color cycles From the idea to the coating

By the time a new automotive color can be seen on the roads, three to five years will pass from the initial idea to OEM production. As a complex product, an automotive coating undergoes numerous rounds of decision-making, technical adaptations and tests.

Global presence − Regional preferences

BASF’s designers in North America, Asia and Europa work closely together with each other and with the carmakers to find the right color. Their collaboration identifies both similarities and regional differences. Brand recognition, market development and consumer behavior will also continue to vary in the individual regions in the coming years – which means that regional color-preference differences will continue to exist.


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